“You can stand back and see the connection was always there.” – Ward
Ward and Betsy met in the 6th grade but 30 years would pass before they were reunited. Both from West County, Ward went to school in Graton and Betsy in Occidental. It was their love of music that brought them together. He played the trombone and she played the saxophone in their elementary school bands. They saw each other twice a year when elementary students from both schools would join with the El Molino High School students to perform as one band, performing mini concerts. When they entered high school Ward and Betsy continued in the band and became really close friends. After high school they went their separate ways, marrying other people and having children of their own, but eventually both marriages would end in divorce. For the next 30 years they would live in the same county, yet never run into each other.
Professionally both Ward and Betsy had an entrepreneurial spirit and developed their own businesses. In the 1980’s he left college to start a scholarship research service, and went on to serve marketing roles in professional baseball and the coffee industry, where he sold coffee cart businesses that catered to Silicon Valley businesses 3Com, Apple, Intel, and Hewlett Packard in the 1990’s. Meanwhile Betsy had opened Wee 3 Family Store, a popular shop specializing in children’s clothing, toys and shoes in the G & G Supermarket shopping center in Santa Rosa.
On the occasion of Ward’s 50th birthday, they reconnected on Facebook. Ward was in Oahu where his Mom, a former school teacher had retired. Shortly after they reconnected online, he returned to Sonoma County for the birth of his grandson and met Betsy twice. Their connection was immediate because it had always been there. This led to Betsy spending her next vacation on the island. One day on the beach as she talked about her business and the effects of the recession, he suggested that perhaps he could help.
Moving back to Sonoma County, the couple married and worked together at her store. When the manager of the shopping center asked if Betsy knew anyone with a background in coffee service, Ward “raised his hand”. A space within G & G Supermarket had been designated as a potential coffee shop but with no interest, it lay dormant for several years. Ward knew the industry statistics about foot traffic and was ready for a new challenge. Located within walking distance of Wee 3, the couple renovated the space and opened Lulu & Hill’s Espresso Bar and Hot Dog Bar.
Attention to detail is evident throughout the space–from the custom light fixtures made from coffee cups to the hand painted mural that spans the length of the café. The mural, painted by an artist friend of Betsy’s son, depicts the landscape of West Sonoma County as the couple remembers it from their childhood. From the beach to the redwoods to the river, the landscape scene even has an apple tree with a small heart carved discreetly into the trunk with the initials W + B. The name “Lulu & Hill” is a nod to their grandparents. Lulu was Betsy’s grandmother and Hill is the middle name of Ward’s grandfather. Together nearly six years, Ward says decades later “you can stand back and see the connection was always there” but they have no regrets for time lost. Now Ward and Betsy have the next 30 years to look forward to. And this time it will be together.
You can find both Lulu & Hill and Wee 3 Family Store in the G & G Supermarket retail center on West College Avenue in Santa Rosa.